Climate Change Having Impacts on Human Rights Too

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Climate Change Having Impacts on Human Rights Too

Reports say that the global temperature across 98 percent of the planet’s surface will rise at the end of the 20th century at higher levels compared to any time in the previous 2,000 years / Photo by: LeDucky via Wikimedia Commons

 

Climate change is not only putting our environment at risk but also our lives. Reports say that the global temperature across 98 percent of the planet’s surface will rise at the end of the 20th century at higher levels compared to any time in the previous 2,000 years. Governments around the world are having a difficult time to effectively lower greenhouse gas emissions as seen in two recent climate reports by the United Nations Human Rights Council. 

The June 2019 report on climate change and poverty by special rapporteur Philip Alston and the July 2019 Safe Climate by special rapporteur David Boyd emphasized the devastating and disproportionate impact of unmitigated climate change on those living in poverty. The reports suggested that governments need urgent action on these impacts. The Conversation, a not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from academics and researchers, reported that Alston classified the human rights impacts of climate change as “climate apartheid.” In climate apartheid, the rich would “pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.” 

Unfortunately, many countries are not yet on target to meet their existing nationally determined commitments (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. The “Key Messages on Climate Change and Human Rights” by the UN stated that businesses worldwide should be accountable for their own climate impacts, given the fact that they are largely responsible for the number of carbon emissions released in the atmosphere. 

The Safe Climate report stated that businesses “must adopt human rights policies, conduct human rights due diligence, remedy human rights violations for which they are responsible, and work to influence other actors to respect human rights where relationships of leverage exist.” This means businesses should ensure that people affected can access remedies, minimize emissions from suppliers, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from activities, products, and services.

World Faces Climate Apartheid

A recent report conducted by researchers at the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) revealed that the global data temperature for July suggests that it is the warmest month on record. BBC, a British public service broadcaster, reported that the new data, which was based on satellites and ground-based stations, showed that our planet is experiencing unprecedented warming. 

With the current status of climate change and global warming, climate apartheid could push 120 million more people into poverty by 2030. Unfortunately, the people who will experience the most severe impact live in poor countries and regions. Even when things got better, hundreds of millions will face disease, forced migration, food insecurity, and even death. A lot of people will have to choose between starvation and migration. For instance, the US alone has suffered 241 weather and climate disasters since 1980, costing $1 billion or more. 

With the current status of climate change and global warming, climate apartheid could push 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 / Photo by: Max Pixel

 

Fortunately, there have been several positive developments. It was reported that renewable energy prices are decreasing and emissions are declining in 49 nations. About 7,000 cities, 245 regions, and 6,000 companies are also committed to climate mitigation. However, many countries are also implementing anti-environment policies. For instance, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is planning to open up the Amazon rainforest for mining, weaken environmental protection, and end demarcation of indigenous lands. 

States are also failing to meet their current carbon emissions reduction and climate financing commitments. Alston reported that the best response to the unavoidable harms of climate change is a robust social safety. Global warming can also get worse rather than prevented if the phenomenon will be used to justify business-friendly policies and widespread privation and exploitation of natural resources. 

Climate Change Threatens Human Rights

Climate change carries immense consequences for human rights, including food, water, and housing. Extreme weather events and the devastation of our environment continue to damage people and the planet. Thus, human rights will continue to be violated. Recently, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged collective action within countries, following the current environmental issues, such as the huge wildfire in the Amazon. The fires have catastrophic impacts on humanity as a whole. However, the worst effects are suffered by the people who live in the region. 

Also, Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas devastated numerous lives, killed 44 people, and destroyed thousands of homes. It is regarded as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever to hit land. According to an article by Phys.org, an internet news portal that provides the latest news on science, the UN rights chief denounced attacks on environmental activists like teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg. "I am disheartened by this violence, and also by the verbal attacks on young activists, such as Greta Thunberg and others, who galvanize support for prevention of the harm their generation may bear," Bachelet said.

She emphasized that the impacts of climate change are having insecurity worldwide, and cited that 40 percent of civil wars over the past 60 years have been linked to environmental degradation. For instance, degradation of arable land in the Sahel region of Africa "is intensifying competition for already scarce resources.” Additionally, climate change will also impact democracy. It will leave civil and political rights vulnerable, as governments struggle to cope with climate consequences and persuade constituents to accept the major social and economic transformations required. 

Climate change carries immense consequences for human rights, including food, water, and housing / Photo by: Oxfam East Africa via Wikimedia Commons

 

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