As extreme weather continues to force the earth into more drought, floods, hurricanes, a time will come when the poorest people would be forced to choose between migration and starvation. This imminent scenario has been termed as ‘climate apartheid’.
The term was in the limelight after the UN Human Rights Council published a report that received worldwide attention, and was widely quoted in the global press. The report rests on figures from the World Bank and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among others. It imagines a world, after a few decades, with 2°C (3.6°F) of warming above pre-industrial levels. It says this could impact a hundred million to four-hundred million people who are at risk of hunger, and one to two billion may have no access to adequate water. Crop yields could drop by thirty percent by 2080, while malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress could cause an additional two-hundred fifty-thousand deaths per year by 2030.
According to this report, written by global poverty expert Philip Alston, the poorest people of the world are responsible for only ten percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions, while the rich are responsible for around half of it. Many people have become rich exploiting nature without paying for its costs.
The report alleges that the lifestyle of the wealthy, who have wider access to life-saving resources, have exacerbated climate change, thus putting humanity at risk of greater troubles that will be difficult to overcome. There will also be an abnormal rise in sea levels and other possible disasters, such as wildfires.
Attacking the US, the biggest producer of emission, Alston wrote: ‘President Donald Trump has placed former lobbyists in oversight roles, adopted industry talking points, presided over an aggressive rollback of environmental regulations, and is actively silencing and obfuscating climate science.’
Unmoved by climate change, US President Donald Trump also took his country out of the Paris Agreement in June 2017, of which about two-hundred nations are signatories. The G20, it seems, is also giving the cold shoulder to climate change, as per reports in The Financial Times.
Besides the United States, the problem of emissions is widespread. Despite ending its reliance on coal, China has been still exporting coal-fired power plants and failing in its target to reduce methane emissions. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has planned to open up the Amazon rainforest for mining purposes, triggering demarcation of indigenous lands, resulting in weakening environmental protection.
To make matters more serious, researchers from Stanford University believe that climate change is making countries poorer, thereby widening the social inequalities of the world. In a 2017 science journal, it was that the poorest states in the United States will see the most economic damage from events such as droughts and hurricanes. Since 1980, the United States, alone, has suffered two-hundred forty-one weather and climate disasters, costing a cumulative $1.6 trillion. The cost of climate change, suffered at a global level, is something that has wider and more profound ramifications.
This climate crisis is giving rise to new movements, all over the world, such as fighting for green economic transition, labour rights, and poverty reduction efforts. The example of the rich preventing themselves from climate apartheid was recently explained by a report from Al-Jazeera, where they highlighted the strategy of Goldman Sachs, where its headquarters were prevented by tens of thousand sandbags, and power sourced from its own generator, when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. It reflected the economic power of the wealthy private sector, preventing itself from sea-rise.
According to an IPCC report, commissioned by CVF countries, the world is becoming hotter, with an increase of 1.5°C, which can be only prevented through rapid uptake of renewable energy sources, phasing out of fossil fuels, and a systematic shift in the mindset of societies.
In fact, global climate change should be viewed personally, and solutions and measures must be provided by every country. That has been another issue discussed at the Climate Vulnerable Forum, as there are around forty-eight countries which will likely have grave climate impacts, and in Africa, alone, sixteen countries have been identified as climate vulnerable.
In fact, in countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and India, torrential rains and floods have directly impacted around forty-one million people.
There have been some positive developments, with renewable energy prices falling, coal becoming uncompetitive, and emissions getting a slump in forty-nine countries and seven-thousand cities and two-hundred forty-five regions. There are around six-thousand companies that have committed to climate mitigation, as per Al-Jazeera.
Despite this positive development, the world at large needs stronger legislation that will inject reform in institutions and in countries suffering from this massive environmental problem.
The writer is an author of six books and the editor of Globe Upfront. [email protected]