The threat spectrum

Planet A

A report by UK climate think tank Ember says Australia’s methane emissions have been hugely underestimated and unless immediate measures are taken they could stop the country reaching its emissions-reduction targets.

The analysis looked at data from the International Energy Agency, which recently reported that methane emissions from Australian coal mines are twice as high as officially reported by Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. The massive under-reporting wasn’t a deliberate cover-up but a result of inaccurate measurement. Previous estimates were based on an extrapolation of coal production, while actual emissions vary between mines. Independent satellite measurements also give more accuracy to the pollution estimates. With satellite imagery, the IEA discovered that the Hail Creek open pit mine alone was emitting 10 times more methane than the national estimates.

The government has not yet commented on the report. Australia’s goal is a 43% emissions cut by 2030. The new estimate of methane leakage could put this target out of reach and opens up questions about under-reporting of emissions globally.

Democracy watch

As Kenyans prepare to cast their ballots in their August general election, a report from the Mozilla Foundation has found a proliferation of election-related disinformation on TikTok. The report says that the platform is ‘failing its first real test in Africa’, arguing that its algorithms undermine political discourse and amplify ethnic tensions.

The report’s author claims that TikTok’s influence, unlike Facebook’s and Twitter’s, hasn’t been fully recognised due to its use among politically impressionable demographics. Kenya’s highly lucrative influencers-for-hire industry also predisposes the country to the proliferation of disinformation. These influencers were, for example, used in 2021 to target journalists, activists and civil servants opposed to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s proposed constitutional amendments.

As in much of Africa, the intertwining of politics and ethnic identity in Kenya can flow into ethnic violence. The report highlights the need for stronger global action to protect fragile democratic institutions from the harm that can be caused by social media platforms.

Information operations

According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Kremlin has expanded Russia’s use of psychological warfare to include sending private messages to Ukrainian troops’ personal mobile phones via SMS, WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

The institute’s report provide examples of Russian text messages demanding Ukrainian soldiers immediately lay down their arms or their families will be killed. Many messages included the soldiers’ precise locations and threatened to employ ‘accurate missile strikes … [against] the residence of the phone owner and his family’ if the soldier failed to surrender.

Russian propagandists have also disseminated videos of captured Ukrainians lamenting miserable fighting conditions due to depleted medical stockpiles, ineffective weapons and troop exhaustion. Unverified reports that Ukrainian forces have fired on their own troops because they retreated are also being circulated online.

While the resolve of the Ukrainian people has remained strong thus far, Putin’s use of psychological warfare is intended to undermine the morale of a fatigued population.

Follow the money

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project recently obtained leaked audits from 2019 that showed Nordic banks DNB and Nordea ignoring indications of money laundering in their businesses. The report found €3.9 billion in problematic transfers, with a further €17.3 billion worth of transactions warranting further investigation. Clients included Russian oligarchs who were sanctioned by Ukraine following the Crimea invasion, and alleged money launderers with ties to the Russian and Belarusian governments.

The internal audits, which were never made public, were ordered after OCCRP and Danish newspaper Berlingske exposed money-laundering activities by Danske Bank from 2014 to 2018. The Estonian branch of Danske allegedly actively helped clients elude the scrutiny of authorities. As a result, Danske Bank was dropped from the DNB–Nordea merger that took place in 2019.

The risks for financial institutions in turning a blind eye to lucrative money-laundering accounts have increased. In light of the sanctions on Russia, the US Treasury plans to take action against investment advisers and institutions that fail to comply.

Terror byte

At a meeting of tri-services delegations last week, China and Pakistan reaffirmed their strategic partnership, agreeing to increase cooperation in counterterrorism and defence amid new security challenges and threats to their bilateral relationship. Terrorism in Pakistan targeting the Chinese presence in Balochistan was of concern after the Balochistan Liberation Army terror attack in April.

With the establishment of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, Balochistan has experienced growing Chinese investment over the past two decades, spurring violent retaliation by terrorist organisations. The Balochistan region is critical to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, acting as the gateway between western China and the Indian Ocean. As Pakistan struggles to deal with domestic security threats like the rise of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and the Balochistan Liberation Army, China will likely continue to step up its military commitments to the country in order to protect its investments in the region.