Recently, as the United States experienced one of the coldest winter ever in the country’s history, a tweet by the current president Trump attracted a lot of attention from everyone around the world. Consequently, this brings attention to the much bigger issue here, the lack of people’s scientific understanding of climate change and related phenomena like global warming, but more importantly, the lack of empathy of such people towards those actually severely affected by the consequences of climate change.
Let’s face it. Human induced climate change is real. Each of the last three decades have been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, and over the period 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 meters. Also, about half of the anthropological CO2 emissions between 1750 and 2011 have occurred in the last 40 years. This is one of the biggest threat to Human rights in this decade. In 2006, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted Resolution 7/23, recognizing that “climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights”. By contributing to it, we are violating one of the most important human rights- the right to life. Ironically, our own right to life on this planet.
Currently, the countries which affect the least the phenomenon of climate change are actually the ones which suffer the most – small island nations that have made peace with nature are in the danger of being drowned by the increasing sea level, its population deprived of the right to food or water, because of the activities of industrialized and industrializing countries. The most remarkable example of this is the islands of Kiribati in the Pacific ocean. Its president has fearfully predicted that the island will be uninhabitable in 30-60 years, and is at the prospect of buying land in Fiji for its population’s future survival. But in reality, Kiribati contributes to less than 0,1 percent of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The average CO2 emission in Kiribati was 0,56 metric tons per capita, whereas that of the United States was 16,49 metric tons per capita in 2014.
So while we might be inside our homes, sipping hot chocolate and looking out the window at the coldest winter we have ever experienced, there are people on the other side of the planet, in a frenzy for their everyday survival due to the rising temperatures. This is the reality of climate change. The number of refugees, either internal or external, from human induced climate change related natural disasters are increasing exponentially. 22 million people were displaced between 2008 and 2014 worldwide due to natural disasters, yet there is no specific legislation regarding the human rights of such environmental migrants – their rights to seek asylum, not from persecution as stated in the Universal declaration of human rights, but from climate change and environmental disasters.
Taking a stand
A human rights based approach to climate change has been proving useful in saving the planet – to fight against the major contributors of the phenomenon and add accountability to their actions. There have been several petitions around the world concerning the same. The most remarkable illustration being that of the Philippines, where survivors of the Typhoon Haiyan, along with non governmental bodies have filed a complaint against 47 “Carbon majors”, stating that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of people living in the Philippines. This approach empowers every individual to take action to take action to halt climate change and make our planet great again !