Global warming is an observable fact threatening our future that much is certain. But, for many, climate change is affecting the here and now. More and more we are witnessing the human cost of climate change: human migration.
In 2008, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, more than 20 million people were displaced by climate related natural disasters such as cyclones, heavy floods and rains. A report by the Environmental Justice Foundation claims global warming could create as many as 150 million refugees by 2050.
Most often the communities hit hardest are the poorest, lacking education on climate change, least able to adapt to changing circumstances and with the smallest carbon footprints on the planet.
Later on this year, the population of around 2500 of the Cartarel Islands, of Papua New Guinea, will be forced from their homes to neighbouring islands as their homes fall victim to rising sea levels. This will not only adversely affecting fishing, destroying plantation and therefore compromising future food sources, but is more tragically ‘swallowing’, as they say, the picturesque tropical island.
Murray Island, one of the 18 inhabited islands of the Torres Strait, lying between the far north-eastern tip of the Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea, with a total population of 7000 people is also feeling the effects of climate change. Inhabitants’ traditional ways of life living on the islands beaches is increasingly plagued by abnormally high tides flooding and eroding the islands and shifting seasons leaving inhabitants unsure as to when to plant crops.Changing animal migration patterns means birds, turtles and sea cows traditionally hunted for meat are now progressively scarce. One inhabitant claims it is usually customary to see hundreds of turtles on the beach during mating season, in 2008, however, she saw only 5 or 6.
Pacific ocean islands, such as Kiribati with a population of 100,000 and Tuvalu with a population of 11,000, are also suffering from rising sea levels engulfing their landsresulting in salt water mixing with groundwater, contaminating wells and food sources such as plants and trees beginning to die out. In 2007, over 3,000 Tuvaluans fled the island to the largest exile community in Auckland, New Zealand.
As of yet ,there are no extensive research studies into whether climate change is in fact behind this phenomenon and if these people are in fact ‘environmental refugees’. There are many that believe this phenomenon is a result of the natural movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates which is causing islands to ‘sink’.
However, research shows that the River Nile is also shrinking. The river, crucial to the economy in many parts of Uganda, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, acting as a source of food and a means of producing a livelihood threatens these populations’ ways of life. Other parts of these countries increasingly suffer from rising temperatures attracting higher numbers of pests and mosquitoes leading to rising health problems and damaging crops local communities depend upon such as coffee crops in Uganda.
Other countries increasingly affected by climate change are Bangladesh, small island developing states such as the Maldives, which is witnessing the erosion of its coral reefs due to warmer waters, and the Seychelles.
According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), regions such as Darfur have been transformed from sustainable agricultural lands into partial deserts leading to tension and conflict over access to food and a means of generating a living
These ‘climate refugees’ grow increasingly scared that their identities and cultures, which they believe to be tied to their land, will be lost. Are we facing the extinction of our world’s different cultures?
It is clear that, before long, the observable trend of inhabitants forced from their homes due to climate change will inevitably become a human rights issue, one which remains at present underdeveloped. For this to happen however there remain legal complexities which must be solved before positive action can be taken such as who is or becomes responsible for these environmental refugees? Neighbouring countries? Who is then to blame for their forced displacement and obligated to provide compensation? Corporations that emit the greenhouse gases that have resulted in anthropogenic climate change? Changes will have to be made to international law to deal with the effects of climate change.
What is certain is that the futures of populations such as those mentioned remain uncertain and in the hands of those with the power to do something for them, namely developing nations.
Thomas Schueneman, Editor of Global Warming is Real, spoke to Christina Wood, Head of Policy & International Development at Planet Positive, at COP15 and gave us his 2020 Vision. Read his post and watch his video here
In 2008, 19% of the world’s coral reefs, some of the most biodiverse places on Earth, were destroyed by pollution like agricultural run-off and sewage, calcification of the oceans, and over fishing. 35% of the remaining reefs are currently under threat.
These reefs took 240 million years to develop into the incredibly beautiful, intricate and important life centres they are. We could be destroying them in a heartbeat.
Their ecological value has been estimated at 172 - 375 Billion dollars per year, and they support many of the 500 million people who live within 100 km of a reef. Will we lose the reefs?
Watch this informative short video from Earth Touch on the issues at stake.
Next week we’ll be visiting Paul King, Chairman of UK Green Buildings Council to film his vision for a low carbon, greener future by 2020 as a part of our 2020 Vision Campaign
We will also have the opportunity to ask him a few questions and we wanted to take this opportunity to ask YOU, our readers, to post some questions that you may have.
Please add your question to the comments and we’ll post the interview on our blog.
On Monday Jan 11th we’ll be visiting Lord Smith, Head of the Environment Agency in the UK to film his vision for a low carbon, greener future by 2020 as a part of our 2020 Vision Campaign
We will also have the opportunity to ask him a few questions and we wanted to take this opportunity to ask YOU, our readers, to post some questions that you may have. Perhaps you want to know his opinion on the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit or his personal actions to reduce his footprint?
Please add your question to the comments and we’ll post the interview on the blog.
Copenhagen may have basically been a failure, but it was also a beginning. The beginning of a global climate movement and the beginning of a truly global dialogue on what humanity needs to do to slow climate change.
There’s a lot to do in 2010:
Governments, NGOs, lobbyist, civil society groups – you had better be working on deciding a global carbon budget. That’s right – a global cap on carbon. And you had better be deciding how to divvy the carbon out justly. We recommend on a per capita basis, with allowance trading, which will direct financing to developing world citizens. You also need to decide a peak out year. A vague accord with fuzzy numbers won’t cut it. Voluntary pledges that stack up to a 3.9 degrees C global temperature rise obviously aren’t good enough.
People – demand change from your law-makers. We’ll be directing you to campaigns that will help you make your voice heard. But you can also choose to live sustainably – become a Planet Positive person by measuring your carbon footprint, and reducing it. We’ll help you out – check out some tips here. And use your buying power- demand more sustainable products.
Businesses – Plan carbon into the lifeblood of your business. It’s here to stay – there’s no ignoring it any longer. With national targets and legislation, you will need to adapt, and increasingly, you’ll also need to adapt to the affects of climate change. Earn the Planet Positive accreditation for your business or product and keep working on becoming more and more sustainable.
We’re looking forward to driving change on these three levels and we hope you will join us.