Nothing will escape climate change’s ravages.
International borders, economies, food and water supplies, health, education, transportation, energy sources, are all predicted to change with the climate as the planet warms faster than scientists predicted.
Another casualty we can add to the list: democracy.
In what is being labeled “climate apartheid,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, warns climate change’s impacts are likely to undermine democracy and the rule of law in addition to basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions.
In a report to the UN human rights council (HRC), Alston criticizes countries, non-governmental organizations (NGO), businesses, even the UN itself for taking “patently inadequate” steps “entirely disproportionate to the urgency and magnitude of the threat,” concluding “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval.”
To be formally presented to the HRC in Geneva on Friday, Alston’s report echoes what climate scientists and sociologists have been arguing for years: the climate crisis’ greatest impact will be toward the poor, as many will lose access to adequate food and water.
Developing countries are expected to shoulder about 75% of the costs despite the poorest half of the world’s population being responsible for only 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.
“Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction, yet democracy and the rule of law, as well as a wide range of civil and political rights, are every bit at risk. The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”
The “climate apartheid” scenario will occur when “The wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”
“When Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York in 2012, stranding low-income and vulnerable New Yorkers without access to power and healthcare, the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator.”
As middle-class and lower-income Californians saw their homes go up in smoke, their affluent neighbors, many celebrities, employed private firefighters to protect them and their mansions.
Last May, NBC published an article explaining how AIG insurance offers wealthy homeowners a “Wildfire Protection Unit” comprised of providing homeowners with flame retardants and AIG employees certified through state or local authorities who respond to fires and map homes in real time as wildfires approach.
Even though Alston criticizes those working to uphold human rights for not centralizing the climate crisis–including his own previous work–he stated:
“This crisis should be a catalyst for states to fulfill long-ignored economic and social rights, including to social security and access to food, healthcare, shelter, and decent work.”
Ashfaq Khalfan with Amnesty International said:
“Climate change is a human rights issue precisely because of the impact it’s having on people. The primary obligation to protect people from human rights harms lies with states. A state that fails to take any feasible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is violating their human rights obligations.”
States mean governments.
Some of our United States are passing aggressive climate-change mitigation legislation.
Take New York, for example, which this week passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), intended to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, making it the second state to intend a carbon-neutral economy following California Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order last year to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.
The bill serves to:
- Reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions to minimize climate change’s adverse impacts;
- Improve the state’s resiliency to certain effects and climate change risks;
- Ensure the state’s energy sector transition will create good jobs and protect workers and communities while transitioning to renewable energy;
- Prioritize disadvantaged communities’ safety and health, control future climate change mitigation’s potential regressive impacts, and adopt policies to aid these communities;
- Review and prioritize public investment allocation
But we can’t wait until 2050.
According to Michael Mann, esteemed Pennsylvania State University professor and director of the Earth Science Systems Science Center, the IPCC’s assessment is actually conservative, underestimating the amount of warming that has already occurred.
We actually have less carbon left to burn if we wish to avoid the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold the IPCC report cites.
We have already passed too many tipping points to avoid some of the climate’s most devastating effects, and many scientists theorize the world has begun a sixth mass extinction.
We need to support aggressive climate-change policy, like the “Green New Deal” Democrats are touting as part of their agenda to help right our current trajectory.
We need to take the fossil-fuel industry head-on.
As long as there is a profit motive, there will never be sufficient action to curb carbon emissions.
It only means the future of our planet, our children, grandchildren, and beyond.
Once it’s over, it’s over.
Yes, nuclear proliferation is a national security threat.
Right-wing extremism is a national security threat.
Gun violence is a national security threat.
The opioid crisis is a national security threat.
Money inundating our political landscape is a national security threat.
Foreign influence in our elections is a national security threat.
The Republican party is a national security threat.
The Trump administration is a national security threat.
But the climate knows no borders, does not respond to threats or political gamesmanship.
It doesn’t care who is sitting in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or anywhere else.
It affects everyone everywhere, regardless of race, religion, creed, or country.
We’re all in this together, borders be damned.
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